Steve Force

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Force has been bowling since he was 7 and has captained the Benik team for 20 years. He led the Open run with a 695. Brian Van Wert, 692; Lonnie Sharkey, 688; Henry Dawson, 680, and Robert Zerbrugg, 647, filled the Benik count to 3,402 pins. Force was a legend before his time. On a snowy January night in 1971, as a 17-year-old sub, he joined the high rollers with an 819 series (289-275-255), the first 800 series in county history and the county standard for years after. He was the youngest 800 roller nationally for that season, 1970-71, and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd for his achievement. He’s been a high roller ever since. Encouraged by his parents and family he has a long list of achievements and now is adding senior bowling accomplishments. In 1988 he was elected to the Kitsap County Bowling Association Hall of Fame and three years later to the Kitsap Scratch Bowlers Organization Hall of Fame. He has 28 KSBO titles; was Northwest Bowlers Association all-events champion in 1987 and ’88 (241 and 239 averages), and general manager at All Star Lanes for 11 years before joining the Benik Corp. 10 years ago. Since turning 50, Force has won two NW Senior tours, four Western Washington Senior Tours, the Washington Senior Tournament Grand Finals, and in 2004 ran a five-game series of 280-227-197-300-299 in the Oregon Senior Tournament at Albany. In his last two games he had 23 consecutive strikes and his 1,303 was a 261 average. He has had eight perfect 300 games and his highest season average is 224. Force led Benik Corporation to national prominence with a fourth-place finish in the 2006 U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championships at Corpus Christi, Texas. Force currently bowls for the Puget Sound Senior All-Star Tour.

1947 Bremerton football team

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Excitement over a Bremerton High School football team has probably never been higher than it was the fall of 1947. The team had been 8-2 in 1946 and the only starter lost was running back Gale Wade, who turned down a college scholarship for $5,000 to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Quarterback Don Heinrich was the team leader and Dwight Scheyer was the coach. Scheyer, at 6-4, 220-pounds, was a striking individual. He had been an all-Coast tackle at Washington State College under the legendary Babe Hollingbery and placed third in the discus in the 1935 NCAA championships
Scheyer came to Bremerton as head football and baseball coach in 1942. His experience was two uneventful seasons at North Kitsap and Snohomish, But at Bremerton he walked into a loaded deck and he knew how to play it.
Bremerton had rejoined several other major schools in a revival of the pre-war Cross-State League. So the schedule was not an easy one.
The Wildcats had been working all summer at Twanoh State Park and any place else they found room in hopes of having a really great season. Then they heard talk from Seattle, where high school teams were not allowed to compete outside the city, that there might be a "Turkey Day" game against the Seattle champion in the High School Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving Day.
Bremerton had whipped O’Dea 64-0 in its opener and was on its way. Everett, a victor over Bremerton for 11 straight years, and Yakima were two possible roadblocks. Yakima beat Everett 8-7 on a bad-snap safety in the mud at Everett, but Bremerton finally whipped the Seagulls, 27-0.
Meanwhile, the Seattle prize was confirmed and Bremerton was being challenged by everybody. Scheyer and Bremerton Athletic Director Larry Ramm tried to accommodate. Bremerton even squeezed in a Tuesday night game at Port Angeles (a 34-6 win) to appease the Olympic League.
It was during halftime at PA that Scheyer told his team they already had the Turkey Day bid. But they still had a game at unbeaten Yakima. If Bremerton should lose that one, there would be an uproar all across the state.
Scheyer and Ramm rose to the occasion. In 1947 you couldn’t just go to your nearest airline ticket counter and buy 50 tickets to get your football team from here to there. In fact no Washington high school athletic team had ever flown to a game. And there were no pressurized cabins in those days. It would be a challenge to fly below the oxygen limits and get forth and back before sunset.
In was a beautiful Saturday in Yakima. An overnight skiff of snow had melted. The field was wet, but firm. The Wildcats had no trouble putting Yakima in the same league as Everett, winning 27-0. But now they had to get home. The route was over Snoqualmie Pass and the bewitching hour was 4:05 p.m., official sunset that day.
Another challenge for Scheyer and Ramm was that game day was the day of the Senior Prom. Gambling on early-winter weather and all the hype and prom activities, Scheyer and Ramm won on all fronts.
The Yakima game was a breakout for sophomore running back Tiny Madlin, who scored two of the touchdowns on long runs. Scheyer was not risking his star running back, Jim Wiley. Heinrich was his usual calm and cool self and the small, but quick and hard-hitting Bremerton line opened holes wide enough for anyone to run through.
Used to crowds of more than 4,000 in Memorial Stadium, almost that many crowded a Black Ball ferry to get to the game in Seattle, where 16,000 fans crowded Memorial Stadium.
Bremerton won the game, beating unbeaten Ballard, 19-14. It was the passing of Heinrich and the running of Wiley and the Bremerton line, both offense and defense, that sent the Wildcats home with a perfect 12-0 season.
The Associated Press poll that determined "mythical champions" in those days voted Bremerton the state champion, 15-13. Longview and Chewelah, the unbeatens that Bremerton did not play, got the opposing votes.
Bremerton’s 12-game season raised other complaints and resulted in the "Bremerto rule." Washington high school football teams were limited to nine games. Exceptions were allowed for "traditional" Thanksgiving Day games and playoffs. That rule stood until 1973 when the present high school playoff systeam was adopted.
Five other Wildcats joined Heinrich on the University of Washington freshman team in 1948. They were linemen Ed Boyle, Jack Crawford and Bud Olsen, and halfbacks Wiley and George Ogg. Heinrich became an all-American and had a long career as an NFL player and coach. Wiley was a Husky star.
When the Kitsap Sun listed its teams and "players of the century" in December 1999, Heinrich was the Player of the Century and the 1947 Bremerton HS football team was the Team of the Century.
Don Heinrich was inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame last year.

Jamie Hlebechuk

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Jamie was at home at either first base or shortstop and shared in the tournaments both at Central Kitsap High School and with the Diamond Dusters. She was a member of the National tournament teams in 1989, 1992, 1994 and 1995. And she was on CK’s four state tournament teams 1992-95, earning all-Olympic League honors each of her high school seasons. In 1995 she was featured in Women’s Fastpitch Magazine as a high school all-American. Jamie began her collegiate career at Western Washington University. Her freshman season she hit 21 doubles and eight home runs and had 21 runs batted in. Her sophomore stats included nine home runs. Jamie then transferred to Arizona State University. After sitting out her transfer year, she was a reserve outfielder most of her junior season. ASU made the NCAA Softball World Series that season (1999). Jamie found her stroke in Regional play at Ann Arbor, MI and was voted MVP of that tournament. Her senior season at ASU she played in 61 of the Sun Devils’ 63 games, batted .295 (41-for-139), scored 23 runs, had 22 RBI and made only two errors playing left field. She had one grand-slam home run at ASU, but remembers a bigger one. ASU defeated Arizona only once in six meetings while Jamie played. "One of the things that I’m proudest of is that I hit a three-run home run off (all-American and Olympic star) Jenny Finch in the game we won," Jamie says of the sweet memory.

Phil Pesco

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Phil Pesco had come from Washington State College to develop the Olympic Junior College men’s basketball program when OC was founded in 1946. Pesco not only used local talent but developed a relationship with the University of Washington that gave him access to top outside talent that was not ready for major college competition. Beyond that, he was an excellent student of the game. Pete Newell, a noted coach of the time, said of Pesco: "Most coaches exhaust the subject in five minutes, but Phil could talk basketball for hours and remain stimulated." In his 14 seasons at Olympic he won six northwest championships and took three teams to the National Junior College Championships in Hutchinson, Kan. He would have taken more teams to the championships, but the Washington schools voted against further participation in the national program. Pesco’s best team was the 1949 team that posted a 32-2 record and finished third at Hutchinson. All five starters were recruited by four-year colleges. Pesco was inducted into the NWAACC Roll of Honor in 1989. The MVP of the annual NWAACC tournament receives the Phil Pesco Award. Pesco was 54 when he died of a heart attack on Nov. 4, 1962.

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Ken Wills

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Wills was a highly successful and respected boys basketball and track coach at Bremerton High School. He was named the Kitsap Sun’s High School Coach of the Century in 1999. Wills’ former players remember him as a mentor, friend and colleague who kept the gym open, took his players hiking, and counseled them about life. A promising miler, went to Washington State College on a track scholarship. Wills lost a 1,500-meter challenge race for a place on the 1932 U.S. Olympic team to Glenn Cunningham by 3-tenths of a second. (Cunningham finished 4th in the Olympics.) Wills’ basketball record at Bremerton was 472-184 (1936-62). He took 15 teams to state. His only championship was 1941 with a team led by 2005 Hall of Famer Les Eathorne. Wills died Nov 19, 1962, just 15 days after the death of Phil Pesco, his friend, former WSC teammate and neighbor. Wills had been selected by the Bremerton School Board to succeed Pesco as Olympic College basketball coach. Wills had no desire to leave the high school, but some school officials were openly jealous of Wills’ popularity and wanted him off the Bremerton campus. Three years after his arrival at Bremerton, he married Thelma "Ta" Dane, the principal’s secretary. They were a striking couple often seen on the tennis courts. She died July 26, 2006.

Wills’ Impact on Lives Lives On, Despite How He Ended His Own

Rob Bruins

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Bruins’ dedication to racing was rewarded when in 1979 he became the only Northwest driver to win the National Hot Rod Association’s Top Fuel championship. He and partner Gaines Markley of Federal Way parlayed consistent performances into the title without winning any national event, a feat that has never been repeated. Bruins attended his first drag race in Long Beach, CA when he was 12, moved with his dad to Silverdale when he was 14, and spent summers with his mom, hanging out at legendary southern California tracks: Carlsbad, Long Beach (Lions) and Irwindale. He experienced success as a crew member for Northwest stars Herman Petersen and Jerry Ruth and made his driving debut in 1974 in Herm’s last front-engine dragster. In 1976 he and Jim Wright fielded an alcohol funny car. When Belfair’s Petersen retired that year, he asked Rob to drive his Olympia Beer-sponsored Top Fuel dragster. They won the Professional Dragster Association race at Fremont, CA, beating the legendary Big Daddy Don Garlits in the finals. He won an NHRA Division 6 race at Mission, BC, and finished second in Division 6 points. Bruins enjoyed his greatest success with Markley. In 1978 he drove their new dragster to victories in Seattle and Ontario, CA, to second in the U.S. Nationals, and won the Division 6 title. That was his 1979 championship year. Following a 10-year hiatus Rob drove a Competition Eliminator for the Byron Brothers of Hoquiam from 1991-93, setting several national elapsed time records and finishing 8th in national standings. A three-sport letterman at Central Kitsap (1968 grad), Rob played softball and became very involved in girls select team fastpitch organizations and at Klahowya Secondary School. He and his wife Bev are active in the Bremerton Yacht Club, where he serves as secretary. They have two daughters and live at Lake Tahuyeh. Bruins works at Subase Bangor.

Steve Okoniewski

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"Oke" was a big man in three varsity sports at Central Kitsap High School where he excelled as a football lineman. He would eventually earn all-American recognition at the University of Montana and play six seasons in the NFL, but getting there wasn’t easy. When things didn’t work out at Washington, he transferred to Everett Community College and played with Terry Metcalf, another future NFL player.
Back at Washington, a knee injury ended his UW career, but Montana came calling. He needed an AA degree to make the transfer and returned to Everett CC to get it. After two years as a Big Sky Conference all-star at Montana he was high on the NFL draft lists. Atlanta took him in the second round, No. 42 overall. He was traded to Buffalo, then Green Bay, and finally St Louis. His NFL rap sheet shows 51 games over five playing seasons; 28 games were as a Green Bay starter (1974-75). Okoniewski also played basketball at CK, averaging a double-double his senior year. He once took 23 rebounds against East High. In track he threw the javelin 197 feet, then a CK record, and put the shot 50 feet. Okoniewski entered the University of Montana’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
He is a 1967 CK grad, earned his bachelor degree at Montana and a masters degree at Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Since 1986 he has been the high school principal in the Luxemburg-Casco School District about 20 miles east of Green Bay, where he is involved with the athletic program.

Dave Wortman, Steve Okoniewski Going Into SPU, Montana Hall of Fames